Presence: The best present you can give yourself and others
Hi there. Today I want to write about presence. We often think about this season as a season of presents. Present giving and receiving. But instead I want to invite you to contemplate presence and what it means to be present in the here and now. We are officially in Holiday season. Which for some means rejoicing and celebrating, and for others means stress, headaches, and frenzy. Either way, amongst all the holiday spirit, whether you love it or hate it, we sometimes forget to slow down and remember what it is really all about: connection, showing love, and perhaps helping each other get through the coldest and darkest part of the year. And we do that best when we can be fully present in the here and now, giving to ourselves first, and then to others our full, undivided attention.
So what does it mean to be in the present moment? It isn't easy to do. And to function in our society you can't really do it all the time. This blog post would probably never get written if I just lived in the present moment all the time. But what if we tried it for just five minutes of every day?
What if for five minutes of every day we let go of worries of the future and to do lists, put regrets, haunting memories, and even blissful day dreams of past or future to rest, stopped our doing and instead let ourselves just BE, and experienced our current state, our NOW, with a beginners mind. Without judgement, without attaching value, just experiencing. Noticing, with curiosity, what you smell, hear, taste, touch, see, and feel.
It can be hard to even imagine or fully comprehend what such a state is like. It isn't really a normal or common state in our adult human world. But lets step for a moment into the animal world, where I think true presence is much more the norm.
Earlier this week I had the gift of going out to unbridled and spending the afternoon with Kim and her horses. Above is a photo of Shoki checking me out with all his senses. Smelling me, taking me in with his eyes, and even nibbling me.
On Kim's website it says "Horses Healing Humans Healing Horses." What a beautiful concept, that healing can be circular. And I think that comes from presence. When the "healer" helps the other come into the present moment an energy exchange occurs that fills you both up. It is true connection. That moment when tears come to both of your eyes, and a smile of true gratitude comes through both of you. Or that moment when a big deep breath moves through you both and you suddenly both feel more peaceful.
Shoki was asking for that kind of presence from me. He was asking me to be there, in the present moment, not needing or wanting anything, so we could have a moment of connection. And his ask worked. Any thoughts I had running through my mind came to a halt and as I became enamored by this majestic creature in front of me, just as curious about him as he was of me.
Being present also means being in a state of deep listening. And so I listened to his cues about how close he wanted me, whether or not I could touch him with a hand, or if he wanted to nuzzle me on his own terms. And I also was asked to listen to my own internal landscape and ask myself where was my boundary? What did I feel comfortable with? Was it ok for him to nibble on my nose?
Kim showed me how the horses are in a constant state of presence, aware and connected to each other, constantly communicating, but without value or attachment to what is said. A no is a no and respected, but does not mean later it might not change to a yes. And their feedback to us humans who have a harder time being in the present moment is beautiful and perhaps feels sometimes brutally honest, and yet it is not personal. It is us, our own ego that attaches value to it and feels perhaps hurt or rejected if, for example, the horse doesn't want you to pet it at that moment.
What if this holiday season you practiced this kind of presence with yourself and others? Children and animals are wonderful beings to practice this with. Be with them, without an agenda, and listen deeply to their cues, verbal and non verbal, and notice if the quality of your interaction changes. And if things come up in you, when perhaps your niece or nephew isn't as interested in playing with you as you hoped, or your cat only wants 10 seconds of snuggles before she squirms out of your arms, take the moment to be deeply present with yourself. Did you have an agenda without realizing it? What was the need or want you showed up with? Can you let yourself feel it and perhaps give it to yourself rather than asking it of this other being? Or just acknowledge it and then let it go, like a leaf floating to the ground?
It's easier to not take it too personally when your feeling of rejection or hurt is triggered by an animal or a child. Especially because often, not long after the animal or child's mood may change and they may be all about the cuddles and sweetness. But what if we can bring this same compassionate non attachment to all our interactions. To that hard to interact with relative who we avoid seeing the rest of the year. Or to that grumpy woman in the checkout line at the mall when you go holiday shopping. Maybe it has nothing to do with you. But something they are needing. And if you can respond from a place of deep listening and compassionate presence you might just change their mood and the whole quality of the interaction for both of you.
That is my food for thought this holiday season. As my life here gets fuller here with a blossoming community and practice I find myself pulled to be present with the lovely people surrounding me and less inclined to pause all of that to come write about it here. As a result my posts have become less frequent. But I believe everything has its seasons and a time may come again when I write more. But for now if you miss my more frequent posts, I will say I have been more active on instagram, sprinkling in little nuggets of mindfulness practice there so you are welcome to follow me there! @FlowStateHealing
Photo credit: Kim Hallin